Research Library

Search over three decades of research on mindsets, including Mindset Scholars Network briefs and working papers, and other publications from Network studies and initiatives.

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Stereotype threat is being at risk of confirming, as self-characteristic, a negative stereotype about one's group. Studies 1 and 2 varied the stereotype vulnerability of Black participants taking a difficult verbal test by varying whether or not their performance was ostensibly diagnostic of ability, and thus, whether or not they were at risk of fulfilling the racial stereotype about their intellectual ability. Reflecting the pressure of this vulnerability, Blacks underperformed in relation to Whites in the ability-diagnostic condition but not in the nondiagnostic condition (with Scholastic Aptitude Tests controlled). Study 3 validated that ability-diagnosticity cognitively activated the racial stereotype in these participants and motivated them not to conform to it, or to be judged by it. Study 4 showed that mere salience of the stereotype could impair Blacks' performance even when the test was not ability diagnostic. The role of stereotype vulnerability in the standardized test performance of ability-stigmatized groups is discussed.

To reduce the anxiety-inducing effects of stereotype threat, 7th grade students were divided into four groups to be mentored by college students. Three groups heard different messages about the malleability of intelligence, how difficulties in 7th grade were normal, or both. A control group was given a message about the harm of drug use. Girls in both experimental conditions did better on standardized math tests.

College students who wrote motivational letters to middle schoolers after learning about the malleability of intelligence later earned higher grades than those in a control group. The effect was most pronounced for African American students, who also reported enjoying school more.

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